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This article was published on April 18, 2019

TikTok Watch: High-schoolers are trolling teachers by using their first names

The results are entertaining to watch.

TikTok Watch: High-schoolers are trolling teachers by using their first names

Welcome to TikTok Watch. You know, 2019’s version of Vine.

This new series unearths the latest TikTok trends, so you don’t have to. Let’s face it, if you signed up, it’d just make you feel really old.

When I was in school, a long time ago, teachers were called ‘sir’ or ‘miss.’ Never, under any circumstances, were we permitted to address them by their first names. It was a cardinal transgression, guaranteed to earn the offender a stern bollocking and almost certainly an after-school detention.

Fast forward to 2019, and what was once an unpardonable sin is now the latest TikTok trend. Across the US, high-school students are walking up to their teachers, addressing them as though they were equals, and filming the results for posterity (and, let’s face it, likes and follows). I’ve compiled a three-minute supercut of the best examples, which you can watch below.


The response from the teachers is somewhat mixed. It’s like there’s a spectrum of emotions. At one end, there’s pure confusion. At the other, there’s ferocious rage, which is compounded by the fact that the experience is being recorded.

And, of course, there are outliers. Some teachers, it seems, weirdly dig being called by their first names. One must assume they’re lumbered with a truly unfortunate family name, like “Shufflebottom” or “Glasscock,” and enjoy the relief of being addressed by something that can’t be twisted into a cruel sexual jibe.

These videos are obviously entertaining, but they also are a great example of why I think TikTok is such an amazing app. It allows people to experience different cultures and lifestyles through the lens of comedy. This is true whether you’re an enlisted soldier in Afghanistan, or a student goofing off during class.

When I showed the above video to TNW’s EU and India team, it sparked a discussion of how the US education system differs from what they grew up with. Depending on where you grew up, US schools seem way more informal. Students weren’t wearing uniforms, and teachers weren’t dressed in suits and ties, but rather jeans and t-shirts.

Our EU and India managing editor, Abhimanyu Ghoshal, attended a top-tier private school in one of India’s major cities, where discipline was everything.

“Most of my teachers at school were not remotely happy to be working with children,” he told me.

If Ghoshal called his teachers by their given names, it would have almost certainly resulted in a beating.

“My 5th grade teacher made friends with the groundskeeper so he could get a fresh supply of bamboo sticks every few days to whack us with,” he said. “If you didn’t do your homework, you’d have to line up with your fellow degenerates and walk up to him in front of the whole class, so he could yank the hair from just above your ears and drop them into your diary (which your parents had to review and sign daily).”

Indian schools are really intense. Who knew?

Sadly, it’s unlikely this trend will catch on in India, even though it’s one of the app’s biggest markets. The country is clamping down on the app over content concerns, and has forced Google and Apple to remove it from their respective Indian app stores.

Given the long and prolific history of corporal punishment in India’s schools, that’s probably for the best.

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